‘Undercover Boss’ gives advice to BCM students
Written by TechPurdue // January 24, 2012 // Admitted Students, Alumni & Friends, Building Construction Management, Business & Industry, Current Students, Faculty & Staff, Latest College News // No comments
(Photo: Sheldon Yellen recognizes student Michael Mattern for being a quiet leader and “doing what’s right when no one is looking.”)
Building construction management students offered knowing laughs as Belfor Restoration’s CEO reacted to the hands-on jobs he was asked to do as part of the reality TV show “Undercover Boss.”
Belfor’s Sheldon Yellen visited campus Monday (January 23) to discuss how his appearance on the television show affected the way he leads his company, which is the world’s largest disaster restoration construction company. His presentation, part of a building construction management class, included clips from the TV appearance.
Working with employees in the field made him love the company more, he said.
“I found out our employees have personal lives with personal issues,” he said. “Even with that, our people are out there performing for other families and they have to be on top of their game.”
From employees to clients, Yellen believes that people are the most important part of his business. Communicating with people at all levels is a trait that is beneficial in his business.
“You are dealing with an emotional client. You have to be trained on how to interact with them. You have to be in tune with what they’re going through,” he said. “You have to help negotiate settlements and work with building inspectors. There are a lot of dynamics in the industry. You can have all the knowledge in the world, but you’ve got to recognize the importance of people. You need people skills to take you the rest of the way.”
The disaster restoration construction industry provides different challenges than new construction, Yellen said. Many restoration jobs can start an hour after a disaster compared to the 6-9 month lead time needed for new buildings. Fast work, especially for commercial clients, is also extremely important to keep income losses to a minimum.
These leadership and industry insights were exactly what Randy Rapp, associate professor of building construction management, hoped Yellen would bring to his presentation.
“I wanted the students to hear about effective leadership, in general, and about the special nature of disaster restoration management, in particular,” Rapp said. “Restoration work is not for everybody, but there are more BCM students who would enjoy it and improve the industry than currently study restoration.”
Rapp believes students took away several lessons and messages from Yellen’s hour-long presentation. He believes one of the most important messages was about the importance of all people in an organization.
“Understanding people — their situations, their needs, their aspirations, their stresses — separates managers who get things done well from managers who merely hold positions and go through the motions,” Rapp said.
You can have all the knowledge in the world, but you’ve got to recognize the importance of people. You need people skills to take you the rest of the way.
“The relationships that you build today will make you successful tomorrow. The nicer you are, the more open you are, the more opportunities you have for success,” he said. “I believe opportunity is there for you. You have to go out there and find it. Create attention. Don’t wait for it to find you. Embrace the change. Be part of the change. Direct the change. You can effectuate change. Everybody in this room has a bit of hero in them.”
Yellen recognized a current BCM student who has shown that “bit of hero” in his campus activities. Purdue BCM student Michael Mattern was identified as being a quiet leader who always has a positive effect on the organizations he joins.
“He’s being recognized for doing the right thing when nobody’s looking,” Yellen said.
Yellen’s presentation was the first meeting of the BCM 900 class. The class brings together all BCM majors to learn about topics and issues beyond the required curriculum.
Read coverage of Yellen’s visit in the Purdue Exponent.